The world changes fast. The software development world changes faster.
Locking into a long term plan and remaining steadfast to that plan might bring comfort when the world around us is awash in change, but it doesn’t give the flexibility necessary to remain competitive.
If we can react to market changes faster than our competition, we can “harness change for our competitive advantage.” And we should not believe that market share or size can save us because Facebook barely existed only five years ago and I guarantee that the next Facebook is being made in a dorm room right now. Don’t believe it?
Typical waterfall projects are very plan driven and change is discouraged. They rely on things like a change review board to approve any changes to scope. In most places I have been the people executing projects would rather undergo a root canal than to present changes to the review board! On the other hand, Agile requires a more value-driven approach. Agile strives to make sure that value is relevant and can adjust with changes like environmental and competitive pressure, emerging opportunities, unseen potentiality and so on.
Nevertheless, never confuse welcoming changing requirements with chaos.
Using agile or scrum is not an excuse to be unorganized or lack vision. Chasing one BSO (Bright Shiny Object) after another is the surest way to create a disorganized mess of software which leads to a competitive disadvantage and a demoralized workforce.
I once worked with a company that allowed its product owner to change nearly all (about 90%) of a team’s stories the Friday before sprint planning. This led to the team not having the time to groom their stories effectively and resulted in very long sprint planning sessions with estimates of work that were wildly inaccurate. In the end, the quality of the software suffered, the team’s productivity was reduced, the team was rarely able to implement what the business desired and there was a growing animosity between development and business. It was a downward cycle that the company still suffers from today.
If chaos like the above can be avoided then Agile’s second principle proves to be extremely powerful in helping us continually concentrate on emerging value and giving our customers the competitive advantage that they all seek.